As a nursing assistant, you spend more time with your clients than anyone else on the health care team. This helps you develop a close relationship with your clients. They come to trust you with their personal information—believing that you will keep it to yourself.
Now, be honest. Have you ever discussed a client’s private information with your family or laughed about a client with a group of coworkers? Most health care workers would probably answer “yes”.
Talking about your clients in a public place or to people who aren’t involved in their care breaks the trust your clients have placed in you. Health care workers who break confidentiality can lose their jobs and can even find themselves in a lawsuit!
Four Easy Ways to Break Confidentiality (And How to Avoid Them!)
There are a few common ways that health care workers break their clients’ trust without really meaning to. See if you can spot the mistakes these nursing aides made:
1. Talking In Front of a Client
A client, Mrs. Jones, had been unconscious for several weeks. Two aides, Sally and Mary, were working together to bathe Mrs. Jones. During the bath, Sally told Mary that she overheard the doctor saying Mrs. Jones will die soon.
Please don’t talk about your clients in their rooms, even if they are unconscious or asleep. You don’t know what your clients might be able to hear.
2. Talking to Co-Workers
During a lunch break with five other nursing assistants, Jim told a story about his client, Mr. Smith. Jim said Mr. Smith was very forgetful and kept trying to eat his dinner with a toothbrush instead of a fork. The whole grouped laughed at Jim’s story.
Even if it seems like a harmless story, please don’t talk about your clients to other employees—unless they are part of the client’s health care team. And then, do it in private, not at lunch. Think about it...if Mr. Smith were your father, would you want a bunch of people laughing at him?
3. Talking To Other Clients
Susan’s new client, Mrs. Brown, was a friend of Susan’s neighbor. Susan told her neighbor that Mrs. Brown was pretty sick and would probably enjoy a visit.
Even if you mean well, please don’t discuss your clients with anyone outside of work, even your friends and family. They have no business knowing the names or condition of your clients.
4. Talking To Family Members
John had been caring for Mr. Carter for several weeks. Mr. Carter’s daughter visited and asked John if her father’s blood pressure was okay. John told her that Mr. Carter’s pressure had been high recently because Mr. Carter was eating too many salty potato chips.
If your clients or their families ask you about the client’s condition, tell them to ask your supervisor or the doctor instead of answering yourself.
What's the Bottom Line?
For nursing assistants (and other health care workers), confidentiality means that:
Health care organizations must promise clients that their medical information will be kept safe. This promise is included in the Patient’s Bill of Rights in all health care facilities. Be sure you understand the Patient’s Bill of Rights where you work.
For more information, check out our inservices entitled Maintaining Confidentiality and the Patient Bill of Rights.